Friday, May 27, 2011

Saddle - Chamois Matching

As most of you know, I recently changed my saddle, twice in fact, but except for the height of the mounting rails, the last two saddles were the same. My previous saddle was solid in the middle, with a gel center that was ever so slightly concave in the perineum area. My new saddle, a Specialized Romin Elite, has a long hollow channel running much of the length of the saddle.

A petite channel keeps the saddle centered well on solid center saddles
My favorite go-to shorts, the Novara Gel shorts pictured above, have a fantastic gel pad in the chamois, but the transition off the gel pad onto the perimeter padding is rather 'sharp' and abrupt, right were my new saddle widens out. The Romin also is rather flat, having almost no side at all, but the side it does have is quite hard. The result is the chamois's sharp edge crosses the saddle's edge right where my femoral artery rubs against the seat. As a result of a lot of irritation, I have been developing a small cyst next to the artery.

The solution was to find either a different saddle or a different pair of shorts, but some combination that works well together. I've taken some photos of the chamois, because chamois was the solution in my case, and because the saddle has solved other problems for me, like better support for riding in the drops and aerobars, and ventilation.

Lacking support to keep the 2 sides apart, this is a chamois only the Marquios De Sade could love
The key difference between these Pearl Izumi chamois is the small center line of padding that occupies the void in saddles with hollow centers. The chamois with white padding on orange is missing this, and either one side or the other is guaranteed to drop into such a hollow. It's also designed to rip out your pubic hairs in the most painful possible way, but that's due to the holes.

A padded center rib that soaks into the void in hollow center saddles keeps these well planted under you
The blue and grey chamois is very similar to the 1-piece orange chamois on my new shorts. The transition on this cheaper, PI Attack short is actually a bit more gradual because the stitching compresses it, but it holds heat and is more vulnerable to tearing. It did make an excellent short to take for a trial run - once I remembered I owned it. Based on it's excellent performance, I bought the more expensive PI Elite In-R-Cool short on the right.

The shorts have other features I like besides the chamois, like longer legs, better venting, and special fibers that wick heat away, but the chamois might actually be a little thinner.

This trend, to have higher end shorts with thinner chamois is rather maddening, and I assume it's due to stronger riders supporting more of their body weight on their feet, and therefore, less on their butts. Whatever the reason, it sure would be nice to have a high end short with a really impenetrable chamois that won't pinch flat, even on a double century.


Nate said...

The sharp edge issue you describe with your romin saddle sounds alot like the pain I had with the toupe. You might consider last years Phenom.

It's a MTB saddle bit it has a more gradual fall-off at the edge that feels better.

Grey Beard said...

Thanks Nate. I'll check that out. Like many I am frustrated that the Romin seems to deny you the satisfaction of knowing you have your seat dialed in.

When female members of my bike club complain I'm wagging my butt at them I appreciate the attention (heeh) but would like to tell them it's right where I like it and mean it.

I have been looking at the Fi:zik Arione saddle, as it is a longer version of the seat I had before, which worked pretty well, except it was too short.

Long story short, still not satisfied with my seat/saddle interface. No way I'd be able to do a double-century on my current setup.